If birth was a mountain, Doulas would be the Sherpas.
A doulas role is one of primarily education and then support. Her job is to help clarify options so her clients can make well informed decisions regarding what kind of care and birth they want and then doulas will do whatever possible to help them achieve their goals.
No matter how many books you read, how much advice you get, how many childbirth prep classes you take - you and your partner will probably not retain a lot of the information you will need to put into practical use when the time comes. You are both going to be emotionally invested and possibly exhausted and in need of support. Hiring a doula helps ensure that you can both remain present with each other and in the journey rather than feel like you need to be navigating the birth field. Brains work better in birth when they can be on autopilot, and a good doula will help you get there.
Think about how much time and money we spend to make our wedding day the most fulfilling experience we can possibly imagine. We do this because this day sets the tone for the rest of our lives together. Birth is an event that will change you even more deeply than the day that you marry. It deserves the same amount of preparation and attention and should not just be left to chance. By educating and preparing yourself AND by putting together the best birthing team, you are truly doing everything that you can to ensure that your birth is the most fulfilling experience you can have.
Women/couples who hire doulas have the benefit of looking back on their birth knowing fully that they did everything they could do to contribute to a positive outcome - even if medical interventions become necessary and birth does not go as planned. This can reduce the risk of regrets that often contribute to Postpartum Depression. Resulting in happier, healthier moms and babies....and that's what the doula is all about!
What do doulas actually "do" in labors?
In addition to bringing her wealth of knowledge and experience, she will comfort you in your labor with methods such as massage, guided breathing and meditation, aromatherapy, rebozo, reflexology, position change suggestions, and calming reassurance to both you and your partner.
What have the studies shown in comparing doula supported birth to non-doula supported births?
Doula supported labor has shown excellent results in shortening labors, have higher numbers of vaginal deliveries without the assistance of forceps or vacuums, and were less likely to need narcotics or epidurals. Cesareans are more rare and the overall birthing experience is more positive. Women who use a doula are also more likely to breastfeed confidently and are far less likely to develop Postpartum Depression (PPD) and the babies delivered are shown to have higher 1- minute and 5- minute Apgar scores.
Since 1980 there have been studies conducted on the benefits of having a doula supported labor.
If I have a willing partner or a Midwife, do I need a Doula?
Many women wonder if they need a doula if they already have a labor partner such as the spouse or family member - or if they are having a home birth with a midwife, and the answer is yes! The doula's role is to not only support the laboring mother, but to help and support the partner as well. Having a doula will help your labor partner understand and be better equipped to help support you.
Many times labor can be an unpredictable experience, especially for those who have never seen or experienced it first hand. Fathers who are often expected to be coaches find it difficult to fulfill her needs because the experience is emotional and intense for them as well. Their panic or fear can contribute to anxiety for the mother. Having a doula to help interpret, communicate with care providers and ease the anxiety of both partner and mother can be a great assistance to the birthing experience. Doula's are trained to be perceptive and know when the anxiety levels are rising and are then able to step in and help everyone get back on track confidently. Every labor can benefit from having a doula present. Even cesarean births can find having a doula for support helpful in getting through with peace of mind and especially when healing from the surgery afterwards.
What if I don't want a Doula at my birth, but, I want help with pregnancy?
Doulas can fit all needs! Pregnancy Doulas are a great option for people who are unsure of or do not want a doula at their birth. They will provide you the same support in pregnancy as they would for any client, helping reduce your stress and make preparing for childbirth a breeze.
Choosing a Doula
Often times the best birthing experience is based on compatibility with your doula because ultimately it comes down to trusting your doula and feeling free to communicate your needs. Meet with at least two or three doula's if they are available in your area and go with your gut instinct and how much the person seems to be eager to support your birth plan.
A Certified Doula is someone who has gone through a certification process a doula or childbirth association such as DONA International, Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE), and others. Though certification ensures that your doula has been trained, it does not ensure that they will be the right choice for you. Some of the very best doulas are NOT certified because they chose not to take that route. At Crowning Lotus, for instance, our founder Juliea Paige is a certified birth doula, but through her process saw ways that this method was lacking and how this sort of work benefits greatly from being handed down from doula to doula - this is why Crowning Lotus is now it's own Doula Training organization.
The cost of doula's may vary, but many offer their services on a sliding scale fee (meaning it is based on your income). The average cost for doula support is between $400 and $1,000.00, and some work as volunteers for low income families or teens.
No matter how much you pay for your doula, the support and experience is priceless.